Food Media: The Culprit Behind Our Fading Foods, or the Champion of Preservation?
Welcome back to our monthly digest, bringing the culinary treasures of Africa and its diaspora straight to your inbox.
Keep scrolling to find bitesize content about:
🚨 The impact food media has on preservation and value
📈 The cost virality has on representation online
📕 Using food media to get more African food at home
💥 How YOU can lead the conversation
The Impact of Food Media
Oral tradition in Africa is used to transmit knowledge and culture from one generation to the next. However, oral tradition is on the decline, and 96% of contact languages (like Pidgin English and Haitian Creole) are either endangered or have lost their last known speakers.
Limited Value Online
Online conversations about African food are often dominated by people who are unfamiliar with the cuisine, which can lead to negative stereotypes and misconceptions like in 2021's Fufu Challenge.
Misinterpretations of African food devalue the cuisine both globally and locally, leading people to lose interest in their grandmothers' cooking and the generations of heritage it represents.
Recipe Preservation & the Internet
The internet is a powerful tool for preserving food cultures, which countries like Indonesia are already taking advantage of.
Recipes from around the world are discovered and preserved on the internet, but African food cultures are lagging behind, and oral tradition alone cannot keep these food cultures alive for future generations.
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The Cost of Virality
Virality largely dictates decisions around what food is showcased by media brands and recipe content creators.
This means that some foods are disqualified before they reach the content creation stage, as creators will self-censor — only create content that they believe will be popular online — and it leads to the devaluation of traditional foods and cultures, as people may begin to perceive Western viral foods as more desirable or valuable.
Even when these foods are featured, it is often represented by people who do not understand the cuisine. A study by Lorraine Chuen found that over 82% of recipes in the New York Times' Cooking section for cuisines like Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese, and African food, were authored by white writers, and under 10% of recipes by writers of color corresponded to the region of their ancestry.
More African Food at Home
In a globalized world, food media has a powerful influence on the value systems that impact African communities.
The rise of search interest in African food is a positive sign, but it is important to note that this interest may not yet be reflected in the mainstream media.
Lead the Conversation
How You Can Support African Food Culture Online & Offline
Follow African food creators & businesses:
By following African food creators and businesses on social media, you can learn about new dishes, cuisines, and products, and stay up-to-date on the latest trends in African food.
Share & review:
When you try something you like, share it with your followers! Leave reviews of African restaurants, cookbooks, and other products online. This helps to spread the word about African food and make it more accessible to others.
Engage with African food content:
Leave comments, like posts, and ask questions. The more engagement African food content receives, the more likely it is to be seen by others.
Write to your local food media publications:
Is there a local restaurant you'd love them to feature? Let them know you're interested in seeing more African food & culture coverage.
Ask your local bookstores to carry newly released African cookbooks:
This could lead to more African cookbooks being stocked and more African food writers being published.
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